WARNING: Unwary travelers daring to venture into Austin these days will encounter a situation much more dire than clogged traffic on I-35 and homeless colonies clustered under viaducts. Don’t let a sparkling downtown lake and soaring office towers fool you. As cowed residents are painfully aware, the Capital City suddenly has become a crime-wracked, violence-ridden hell hole on par with Prohibition-era Chicago or cartel-controlled Culiacan. Or so suggests Gov. Greg Abbott.

Skeptical? Why else would the governor take the extraordinary step of proposing to hand over the duties of the Austin Police Department to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The governor proudly promised last week — “just in time for Christmas” — that legislation is in the works to allow the DPS to take responsibility for the safety and responsibility of Austin’s residents, because, in Abbott’s view, their squishy-minded city council dared try to cut the police budget.

It’s unclear whether the still-to-be-filed proposal — crafted by Ron Wilson, a former Democratic state representative from Houston, and Terry Keel, a former state representative and Travis County sheriff — would allow state troopers to take control of the whole city or just downtown and the University of Texas area. Abbott’s draft language would obligate Austin to pay for its policing, but the city would have no say in policy or administration.

Oh, what a small price for Austinites to pay for having a bold leader looking out for them. Surely. A dangerous, chaotic city must be brought to heel. Or so suggests the governor.

Never mind the actual facts. Recently elected state Sen. Sarah Eckhardt of Austin, Mayor Steve Adler and others have noted that the Capital City is invariably rated among the safest in the nation and that its local economy is one of the strongest, even in the pandemic era. In reality, the city’s biggest headaches — traffic and the lack of affordable housing — are the result of people clamoring to live in a thriving, progressive urban area.

We can only speculate as to the governor’s motives. We know the Houston native, who happens to live in a big, white mansion in downtown Austin, likes to voice a country-bumpkin disdain for urban Texas, particularly true-blue Austin.

Then consider Abbott’s comment a few years ago about the “People’s Republic of Austin.” Speaking in small-town Belton, he told a gathering of law-enforcement officials that “once you cross the Travis County line, it starts smelling different. And you know what that fragrance is? Freedom. It’s the smell of freedom that does not exist in Austin, Texas.”

A bit of political hyperbole, no doubt, and yet it does seem odd that Abbott’s paean to freedom does not seem to extend to Texas cities seeking to exert control over their own affairs, whether it’s Houston trying to enact a tree ordinance, Denton seeking to ban fracking within its city limits or local governments setting their own property tax rates. Local control used to be a conservative mainstay, but Abbott’s proposal for the People’s Republic of Austin would suggest that he’s taking his inspiration from another People’s Republic, the one with its booted heel on Hong Kong.

Perhaps the governor couldn’t resist the political wedge issue growing out of demonstrations that erupted after George Floyd’s death beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. The governor and other Republican elected officials, including the president, jumped on “defund the police,” the imprecise slogan some Democratic progressives adopted as cities around the country felt compelled to re-assess their approach to law enforcement and reallocate funds.

No city, as far as we know, has actually defunded its police department with no plan to replace it.

Austin’s response was to attempt to reallocate $150 million from the APD’s budget, which has grown every year since 2009. The reallocated monies would go to mental health, family violence prevention, homelessness, victim services and pandemic response. The city also proposed to earmark $49 million for a Reimagine Safety Fund, aimed at providing alternatives to traditional policing. No officers were laid off.

It’s too early to know whether that effort, begun in August, was foolish or farsighted. Regardless, it’s Austin’s decision to make — the voters’, actually — not the governor’s.

He has more urgent issues to address. The number of Texans hospitalized for COVID-19 and the average number of people who have died in the past few days are soaring. Hospitals are nearing capacity.

Our fellow Texans, out of work and hope, are waiting in long food lines in part because of the federal government’s dallying. Schools — and parents — are in distress. The state’s sales tax revenues are seriously depleted.

Get to work, Gov. Abbott, on things that matter. You know full well that the Austin Police Department is not in crisis. You know that crime isn’t soaring and a rise in a relatively low number of murders, for instance, is not out of step with pandemic-era increases in other major cities.

Texans have neither time nor patience for political gamesmanship. And, governor, before lawmakers come to town in a few weeks, let them know they can leave the flak jackets and AR-15s at home.

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